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Gallagher Premiership semi-finals: Four key head-to-heads as Bath Rugby face Sale Sharks

The Gallagher Premiership semi-finals return to the Rec for the first time since 2015, but it won’t be a walk in the park for Johann van Graan’s side as they face a red-hot Sale Sharks. 

Bath ended the season with a resounding 43-12 win over Northampton Saints, and have kept the core of that squad together for this latest test.

Matt Gallagher starts at fullback, with Joe Cokanasiga and Will Muir named on the wings. Ollie Lawrence and Cam Redpath again partner-up in the centres. Finn Russell and captain Ben Spencer are named in the halves.

Beno Obano, Tom Dunn and Thomas du Toit all start in the front-row. Quinn Roux and Charlie Ewels start in the engine room. Rounding off the team, Ted Hill, Sam Underhill and Alfie Barbeary all start in the back-row.

Elliott Stooke and Josh Bayliss are the headline names on the bench.

Alex Sanderson has also named his strongest possible team.

Joe Carpenter is named at 15, with Tom Roebuck and Tom O’Flaherty joining him in the back-three. Sam James starts alongside Rob du Preez in midfield, and George Ford and Gus Warr continue their fine half-back partnership.

Bevan Rodd starts alongside Tommy Taylor and James Harper in the front-row. Cobus Wiese and Hyron Andrews feature in the second-row, with Ben Curry leading the side from blindside flanker. Sam Dugdale and Jean-Luc du Preez complete the pack.

Tom Curry is the headline name on the bench, after his return from injury.

But with so many star players on display, who will define the outcome of the game? Here are four head-to-heads to watch out for.

Four key head-to-heads as Bath Rugby face Sale Sharks

Credit: IMAGO

Beno Obano vs Bevan Rodd

With Ellis Genge ruled out of England’s summer tour, there is a real opportunity for either loosehead to stake a claim for the England number 1 shirt. Bath prop Obano has really locked down the scrum this season, and his powerful carrying in the tight is exactly what Bath need to confront the aggressive Sale defence. On the flipside, Rodd is a brilliant defensive operator, and is almost like an extra back-rower at the breakdown too and will be a constant jackal threat all afternoon.

Ted Hill vs Ben Curry

Another potential England battle. There is a vacancy on the blindside following Ollie Chessum’s injury, and either player will do a very good job in that spot. Ted Hill has fought back from a serious hamstring injury, but has quickly regained his form. He is one of Bath’s key players, and is incredibly solid on both sides of the ball. His opposite number, Curry, is arguably Sale’s most important player. Curry is such a defensive weapon for his side, leading the charge for turnovers and making the third most tackles too for the Sharks. He is also a solid ball-carrier in his own right.

Ben Spencer vs Gus Warr

These two have had good words to say about each other in the build-up, but they will looking to get one over each other on Saturday. Bath skipper Ben Spencer has had his best season in the Blue, Black and White this year, and he has gained his spot in the England squad because of it. His kicking game is so important to Bath’s style of play, and he also provides them with a calm head in these big games. Warr has also grown year-on-year, and in a similar way to Spencer has a fantastic kicking game. Warr is also an incredibly ‘nuggety’ (I’m sorry) nine that puts in the hard graft.

Finn Russell vs George Ford 

Two genuinely world-class fly-halves battling it out, what more could you ask for! Finn Russell has given Bath a new lease of life since his arrival, and has really brought the best out of the players around him. His typical flamboyant attack has been balanced well with great leadership, and he has combined well with Ben Spencer in these key areas. His opposite number Ford has also been influential to his team’s success. Since returning from the Six Nations, Ford has unlocked Sale’s attack and allowed them to really progress in this area. He still offers his usual threat at the line, however he now plays slightly deeper, which then allows other players to get more time on the ball.

Gallagher Premiership semi-finals in full

Credit: IMAGO

Friday 31st May

Northampton Saints vs Saracens

Venue: Franklin’s Gardens

Kick-off: 7:45pm

Saturday 1st June 

Bath Rugby vs Sale Sharks

Venue: The Rec

Kick-off: 3:30pm